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Mailbag: NPR strikes back

Mailbag When I recently posted a link here to a story I wrote in 1993 criticizing -- okay, eviscerating -- NPR, the folks there were not amused. Here's their reply:

There are many aspects of the recent blog posting An old-but-goodie piece of NPR-bashing that NPR could challenge, but I’ll limit myself to one statement, written this week: by Glen Garvin: “But the thrust of the story, I think, remains valid. NPR remains a cultish echo chamber with a tiny audience anchored in a dying medium, funded almost entirely with money extorted from taxpayers. Other than that, public radio is great.”

The fact is – not one of these assertions is true – and public radio is great.  We are dismayed that an organization with the Miami Herald’s reputation would fail to check the facts.  Here they are:

The NPR audience is significant and growing on all platforms. As of the latest national ratings period, Fall 2009, NPR stations reach 33.9 million Americans every week; NPR programming and newscasts alone reach 27.1 million. Our drive-time newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered stand at #3 and #4 in the nationwide radio ratings. Unlike many commercial networks, the number of NPR stations is growing, not declining, as the public has a thirst for fact-based independent journalism and high-quality arts, music and cultural programming. Since 1993 when this piece was first published, the network of stations airing NPR programming has grown from 427 to 901.  Our audience via digital platforms is also growing, currently about 11 million people visit NPR.org each month.

Radio is not a dying medium, though it is a mature medium. From 1998-2008 the audience for NPR programming grew 63 percent, commercial radio grew 13 percent, nightly network news was down 19 percent and newspapers dropped by 29 percent. Radio is amazingly resilient and is actually maintaining its audience.

The statement that NPR is funded almost entirely with money “extorted from taxpayers” is outrageous and enormously disrespectful to the people who make up public radio’s largest source of funding: the 2.85 million households that voluntarily contribute to public radio stations annually. The fact is that roughly 10 percent of public radio station funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private non-profit chartered by the Congress. The largest source of station funding is contributions from listeners, followed by corporate sponsorship. 

As to NPR, Inc., we have received no operating support from the federal government since 1983.  About 2 percent of NPR’s annual budget comes from competitive grants from federally funded organizations. NPR, Inc’s largest sources of revenue are NPR member stations, who pay program fees and dues to NPR, and corporate sponsors.

Dana Davis Rehm

Senior vice president – Marketing, Communications & External Relations



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Garvin in your face. I love NPR


In all seriousness though do you consider Fox or CNN a better News Source? NPR is the most balanced news I have been able to find. This article may be outdated, unless you still feel the same (Link Attached). Your argument is not that great, because do most people have the time to watch or listen to news from The Herald, CNN, and Fox in 1 day. BBC is the best source in my opinion.


Gotta wonder - why didn't you look into any of this before posting, Glenn? I understand the piece is 17 years old, but why re-use it at all?


That's a good question -- why did you re-post this, and worse, why did you repeat the lies you told in 1993, even after you were corrected with easily verifiable facts? I'm genuinely confused.

Dying medium. Um, look to your right. Now your left. Now ahead. Now behind you. Now at your computer screen, with the Herald' site on it. Now at the full newsracks in the street. Now in the mirror. *That's* a dying medium.

Bill Marvel

Oh me, oh my. A Miami newspaper telling us NPR is anchored to a dying medium.

Paul Burrell

Particularly amusing is that the NPR flak didn't both reading to the end of the story. In which the sleight of hand that allows NPR to claim a small Federal subsidy is laid bare:

'what that figure really represents is a clever bookkeeping trick. In 1987, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting--the quasi-independent organization in charge of distributing the annual $300-million-plus federal subsidy to public broadcasting--stopped funding NPR directly and started giving the money directly to public radio stations, which then hand it back to NPR in the form of "dues." '

Also entertaining is the then-tax funded satellite, which NPR was renting airtime on as another revenue stream.

Marian Ruther

33 million listeners? Well Glenn, they must be doing SOMETHING right. Or are you smarter than all of them too...I'm sorry, how many people did you say read this blog?

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